The Lost Openmoko Community ( what's a community manager to do?)

Stroller stroller at
Mon Oct 6 10:06:33 CEST 2008

One of the things that Risto was complaining about was the number of  
distros for the Freerunner, and "they're all incomplete!!"

His words "why don't the developers feel ok to contribute directly to  
2007.x and 2008.x but 'fork' their own distros?" echo my own  
complaints a couple of months ago in my message "Community  
contributions to core apps & features" 9 weeks ago.

You & Sean have said that you want to follow your own vision in the  
software side of things - developers can't supply patches for power- 
user features (that make the UI more complex) and expect you to  
include them in the "core" distro, if you're trying to produce a phone  
software suite for grandmothers. And I really understand where you're  
coming from with this - you have to sell loads more volume if you want  
your hardware business to be successful.

So the only answer to this IS to have more distros. And really, anyone  
complaining about the state of the current software stacks should have  
been here 3 months ago. Back then it was "Openmoko shouldn't have  
shipped broken hardware with this GPS bug!" Isn't that now all fixed  
in the kernel drivers? No-one who sees how much the situation has  
improved is complaining now.

I appreciate there's some room for compromise between "grandmothers"  
and power-users on the state of the software. You can start with a  
basic interface and have a framework so that extra features are only  
shown once installed & configured by the advanced users. But there is  
no "one true way" - if we look at the state of desktop window  
managers, we see that. This is a relatively mature "market" - Gnome &  
KDE have both been around and stable for several years. When Risto or  
some other newcomer looks at Openmoko & the Freerunner, you cannot  
expect them to see a "path" as clear, directed and well-signposted as  
that space.

I applaud your effort - you're responding to criticism and asking how  
you can fix the problem - but I can't see how a "community manager"  
can change anything. You can't exactly deny there are several  
Freerunner distros, or that they're all works in progress!

Build the product and the community will come to you!
It already has, it's just a little too early for everyone to see the  
fruits of this.

We already have Michael Shiloh providing weekly community updates  
(ahem) - IMO a "community manager" would just be a distraction from  
Openmoko's real business. You should be concentrating on the hardware,  
and if you're employing an additional member of staff then make it a  
kernel programmer, so that your hardware runs more smoothly for the  
distros that evolve around it. Or get FSO complete sooner, so that  
(again) all the distros benefit.

Running a business is all about customer satisfaction, but you can't  
keep EVERYONE happy. There will always be 1 or 2 who "don't get it",  
and they just happen to be vocal about it. You've already satisfied  
99% of us with your open-source mobile phone platform - already so  
many people are bringing their own ideas and (more importantly) work  
to that. Ignore the whiners! I don't include Risto in that  
characterisation, but I don't see how you can please him.

In 6 months time you will have some amazing community distros for your  
phones, and at least then the "incomplete" complaint will be  
satisfied. Those that "don't get it", meanwhile, will have found  
something else to complain about. This is the nature of open source.


On 6 Oct 2008, at 03:37, Steve Mosher wrote:

> Stroller let's assume it is Possible. I had a long chat with Sean
> today. We both read the community list daily and our number one topic
> of conversation was the "Lost community" thread. Sean asked me what
> I thought of having a community manager. ( he was reading my mind  
> again)
> On one hand, I said, Stoller has some good points ( as always). It  
> would
> be a bit like herding cats, and in someway we want interesting cats,
> wandering off to do things that A) we didnt think of and B) we  
> disagree
> with. basically because we don't know everything. On the other hand,
> we do recognize the benefit to be had from a little bit of structure.
> I have my ideas about what a community manager would do to organize  
> and
> mobilize, But before I put those ideas down, I'd like to throw it open
> to the community. Question: what functions do you see a community
> manager performing. Write his job spec. ( hint hint)

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